Tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years, with studies showing that as many as 30% of people aged 18-35 in the United States have at least one tattoo. With tattooing becoming more mainstream, many Christians wonder what the Bible says about tattoos and whether having tattoos will affect their entrance into heaven. This article will examine what the Bible says about tattoos and heaven, common questions around this topic, theological perspectives, and advice for Christians considering getting a tattoo.
What Does the Bible Say About prohibited tattoos ?
The Bible does not explicitly prohibit tattoos, but it does provide some principles that are relevant when considering tattoos. Here are some key Bible verses about tattoos and body modification:
- Leviticus 19:28 – “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” This verse prohibited tattoos in the context of pagan mourning rituals.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Christians’ bodies belong to God and should honor Him.
- 1 Corinthians 10:23 – “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” While the Bible does not forbid tattoos, we should consider if they are the wisest choice.
The Bible does not explicitly command against tattoos, but principles of holiness, honoring God with our bodies, and wisdom should inform a Christian’s decision about tattoos.
What Did Old Testament Law Say About Tattoos?
In Leviticus 19:28, God commanded the Israelites not to get tattoos as part of pagan mourning rituals. This verse says:
“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.”
Tattooing was a common practice in ancient pagan religions. Gods like Baal were worshipped with body markings and cuttings.
The Mosaic Law prohibited tattoos to prevent Israelites from imitating pagan idol worship and mourning rituals. The verse is not a universal prohibition of tattoos.
What Did Jesus Say About Tattoos?
Jesus did not directly address tattoos in his teachings. However, he consistently emphasized loving God, loving others, and focusing on inner purity rather than outward appearances.
For example, Jesus criticized the Pharisees for focusing on external things like hand washing while neglecting internal matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:25-26). He taught that evil comes from within, not outward appearances (Mark 7:20-23).
While Jesus did not forbid tattoos, his teachings emphasize prioritizing love for God and others, purity of heart, and resisting legalism, which are all relevant to consider regarding tattoos.
Will Tattoos Affect Entrance into Heaven?
Many Christians wonder if having tattoos will jeopardize their salvation and entering heaven. Here are a few perspectives:
- Tattoos alone will not affect salvation. Salvation is based on faith in Christ, not external appearance. However, tattoos could reflect idolatry or impurity which can affect the heart.
- Tattoos must not violate Christian conscience or witness. While tattoos may not be wrong in themselves, they must not violate a Christian’s conscience or negatively impact their witness (1 Cor 8:9-13).
- Motives matter most. Why a person gets a tattoo is most important. Tattoos can honor God but could also indicate rebellion or idolatry, which would affect the heart.
- Focus on inward holiness. Outward appearance is far less important than inward purity and holiness. Heart motives should be evaluated more than external appearance.
The bottom line is tattoos alone do not affect salvation but wrong heart motivations do. If a Christian’s conscience is clear and motives pure, tattoos will likely not jeopardize their entrance to heaven.
Will I Go to Hell if I Have Tattoos?
Having tattoos does not automatically make someone go to hell. The Bible does not teach salvation by works or external appearance.
However, a few cautions are in order:
- If tattoos reflect idolatry or rebellion against God, they could indicate a heart that rejects Christ’s lordship. Idolatry and unbelief do affect salvation.
- If tattoos cause a believer to stumble or convey the wrong evangelistic message, they should be reconsidered in light of conscience and witness.
- If tattoos result from peer pressure or foggy judgment, motivations should be evaluated. Maturity and discernment are virtues to cultivate.
At the end of the day, our standing with God comes down to the posture of our heart, not outward adornment. Tattoos are not a heaven or hell issue in themselves, but a believer’s reasons for getting them are important.
Theological Perspectives on Tattoos
Christian scholars and theologians hold a range of views on tattoos:
Tattoos Are Inherently Sinful
Some Christians argue that tattoos violate Scriptural principles regarding holiness, honoring God with our bodies, wholesome thinking, and avoiding pagan practices. They contend that the modern rebelliousness associated with tattoos is at odds with submission to Christ.
Tattoos Are a Matter of Christian Liberty
Other Christians believe tattoos are a matter of Christian freedom. Since the Bible does not clearly forbid tattoos, they argue that each believer must decide before God if getting a tattoo is the wisest choice. Right motives and moderation are emphasized.
Tattoos Can Have Redemptive Purposes
Some Christian thinkers maintain that tattoos can honor God and serve redemptive purposes. Associating tattoos with sin neglects how God can redeem them for gospel purposes. They argue tattoos need not signify carnality if done in faith.
Focus on Inward Transformation
Some emphasize that outward appearance matters far less than being inwardly transformed by Christ. While avoiding legalistic rules, we should also cultivate discernment, holiness and purity within. The heart motives behind tattoos matter most.
Advice for Christians Considering Tattoos
Here is some advice for Christians thinking about getting a tattoo:
- Pray and reflect thoroughly first. Do not get a tattoo impulsively. Spend time seeking God and examining your motives.
- Consider carefully your reasons. Getting a tattoo to rebel or stand out is unwise. But celebrating your family or honors God is a better motive.
- Consult mature Christians. Share your thought process with wise, seasoned believers and ask for their perspective. An outside view can help give clarity.
- Select modest designs and locations. If getting a tattoo, choose tasteful art in discreet locations, not extreme, flamboyant designs.
- Check that it does not violate your conscience. Make sure that after prayer and reflection, you feel total peace before God with the decision.
- Consider whether now is the right time. Young or immature believers should wait and seek counsel to ensure it is a wise choice they will not regret.
- Focus on cultivating inner holiness. Our goal should be pursuing a pure heart before God more than external expression. Keep your walk with Jesus first.
With wisdom and discernment, Christians can get tattoos in ways that honor God without compromising biblical values.
|Pros of Getting a Tattoo
|Cons of Getting a Tattoo
|– Form of self-expression
|– Permanent mark on body
|– Celebrate important events/people
|– Potential health/safety risks
|– Enjoy art on your body
|– Could affect career opportunities
|– Commemorate faith or overcoming hardship
|– Stigma remains in some contexts
|– Fun way to assert uniqueness
|– Vulnerable to peer pressure/impulse
|– Variety of designs and options
|– Expensive to remove if regretted
Examples of Positive Tattoos for Christians
- Bible verse – Uplifting Scripture affirmed through your life
- Cross – Simple symbol that honors Christ’s sacrifice
- Dove – Represents the Holy Spirit and purity
- Names of family – Honor special loved ones in your life
- Overcoming hardship symbols – Reminders of persevering through Christ
- The Bible does not explicitly prohibit tattoos, but principles of holiness and purity apply.
- Having tattoos will not jeopardize salvation alone, but wrong motivations will.
- Christians should carefully reflect on tattoos to make sure they honor God and align with conscience.
- Our priority should be nurturing inward holiness more than outward appearance.
- With wisdom and pure motivations, tattoos can be an acceptable choice for some Christians.
- Consult wise believers and much prayer should inform decisions about tattoos.
The most important thing is not outward appearance but having our hearts transformed by Christ through faith. Whether we get tattoos or not, pursuing holiness, loving others, and glorifying God should remain the focus.
In summary, the Bible does not explicitly prohibit tattoos, but also has principles of holiness and honoring God with our bodies that are relevant to consider. Tattoos will not jeopardize our standing with God in themselves, but wrong motivations and idolatry will.
Christians should carefully reflect on their motives and whether a tattoo positively conveys their faith values. With wisdom and prayerful discernment, Christians can make godly decisions about tattoos that maintain a pure conscience and strong witness for Jesus Christ.
While our outward appearance matters far less than the inner condition of our hearts, we should aim for both inward and outward holiness as faithful followers of Christ.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tattoos and Heaven
Here are answers to some common questions about tattoos and entering heaven:
Will having tattoos affect my salvation?
Simply having tattoos does not determine salvation. Salvation depends on repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, not external appearance. However, tattoos could reveal sinful motivations in a person’s heart that need to be repented of and transformed by Christ.
I got tattoos before I became a Christian. Will they keep me out of heaven?
Becoming a Christian means our sins are completely forgiven – even regrettable decisions like unwise tattoos. God sees us as new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Do not let past mistakes define you; rest in God’s grace.
What if I have tattoos associated with sinful things? Can I still go to heaven?
Even tattoos connected to past sin and darkness can be redeemed by God’s grace. As we grow in holiness, past sins and mistakes lose their grip as we become new creations in Christ. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and shame.
Should I get my tattoos removed to be allowed into heaven?
You do not need to get tattoos removed to earn God’s acceptance. If you feel personally convicted to remove tattoos, pray and seek counsel. But understand that God’s grace covers regrettable tattoos as we repent and believe.
I want to honor my late friend. Is it wrong to get a memorial tattoo?
Memorial tattoos are not intrinsically wrong, but warrant caution. Make sure your motives are pure and it does not violate your conscience. Our hope is in Christ’s resurrection, not memorials. Non-tattoo memorials may be safer options.
Will religious tattoos help me get into heaven?
Tattoos of religious symbols like crosses do not earn salvation. Entering heaven comes through faith in Christ alone. Religious tattoos can even become idolatrous if we place faith in the tattoo itself instead of Jesus.
If I stop getting tattoos now, can I still enter heaven?
Through faith in Christ alone. Discontinue unwise behaviors but recognize tattoos themselves don’t disqualify you from heaven. Repent and believe, then grow in wisdom. Don’t let past mistakes have more sway than God’s mercy and grace.
What tattoos should Christians absolutely avoid?
Avoid tattoos associated with evil, paganism, sexual immorality, vulgarity, or that dishonor God. Also avoid tattoos done out of sinful rebellion rather than godly motives. Focus on pure, wholesome designs that honor Christ’s lordship.
What are some positive, meaningful tattoos for Christians?
Some meaningful tattoos that honor God include Scripture verses, crosses, images of nature and creation, names/birthdates of loved ones, symbols of overcoming through Christ, and other uplifting art that inspires faith and worship.